As I started to read Ginger Vieira’s book Diabetes Burnout, I was hit by an incredible sense of guilt. Did I push my son too hard? Did I expect too much? I was later vindicated but I was reminded the overwhelming guilt that comes with being a parent of a child with diabetes…or maybe its just me.
Well meaning people share with us many “reasons” that children develop diabetes and somewhere in the back of our mind’s ( well my mind anyway) we ask was that it? Was that why my son developed this disease? Did I not breast feed my son long enough? Did I feed him cow’s milk too soon? Was vaccinating on schedule a bad thing? Was there a family history that we missed? I know that I didn’t feed him too much junk. I know that it wasn’t two years of chocolate bars that did this to him but maybe that first time that he seemed off months before I should have realized that he was seriously ill and that it wasn’t just the flu?
Eventually I realized that I couldn’t spend all of my energy feeling guilty about the “what ifs”. Diabetes took up enough of my energy on its own…but that led me to a new source of guilt. Had I denied my other son because diabetes took so much of my energy? My older son never complained but it was a question that popped into my head now and again. We went to diabetes related events and he met many new friends. He always seemed to have more fun than my child with diabetes.
I was there for my oldest son in his events and activities. He knew that when there was an issue that required someone to stand beside him, I always did. I was also there for the softball games, school events, report card days, sick days, and driving school. I was pretty sure that I had successfully found a balance.
But what about a balance with diabetes and my youngest son? Did it take over everything? Did he hate me because I punished him for diabetes related offenses? Did he feel that I had robbed him of his childhood by focusing on testing and injecting when he wanted to play and forget it all?
My children seem to be well-adjusted. We have memories of family vacations and times spent with each other. We communicate regularly. I guess I didn’t scar them too badly–I hope.I didn’t have to feel guilty about robbing my children of their childhoods. Diabetes changed things but it didn’t destroy it.
One other area of guilt seems to always flutter on the sidelines. I know I am not alone in with this one. I have heard other parents mention it. Its the guilt that comes when our children go away and take diabetes with them. It’s that time when they go to the other parent’s house, spend the night with a friend or with grandparents. It’s that time when they go to camp for a week or move away from home. It is then that a new guilt moves in. I no longer have to think about diabetes 24/7. Oh I still wake at night. I still look at a meal and automatically count the carbs and dose insulin in my head. I wonder what my child’s blood glucose level is at any given time. I worry and wonder if he is taking proper care of himself, but I have a break. I don’t really have to be awake at night. I can enjoy that extra glass of wine without fear of dealing with a low later that evening. I don’t have to remember to test after that walk. I have it easy. It’s not fair. The guilt becomes stifling.
As a parent, I want to carry the burden of this disease for my son but I can’t. I want to give him a break but I can’t even if I get one! It doesn’t seem right. I must be a terrible parent…but maybe I am not.
When my son is with me, I help him with care when he wants. When he has an issue and he is away from me, he calls and asks for help. We talk about readings…when he is ready. We talk about other things as well. I work hard to make diabetes the last thing I ask him about not the first.
Guilt doesn’t get me anywhere. It’s a backwards looking emotion. Life didn’t come with a guidebook. My children were not born with a manual attached. I do my best. We all do. Guilt must be released not harbored…and I do. I have made mistakes but my kids are okay. They are strong. They are relatively healthy. They are smart. They do me proud. Why waste energy with guilt? Move forward and smile. It’s the only way to go.